Music has a strong effect on our emotions and actions. Listening to a favorite song can set a positive mood for the rest of the day. Why is that? What exactly goes through our head that makes us feel good when certain music is played?
In the following sections, we’ll go through what makes us respond to music positively and how our brain processes it.
Uncertainty and Surprise
All songs are made up of what’s called chord progression. They are a group of notes played at the same time and can have a pleasing affect.
Hearing a well-liked song repeatedly will bring forth a level of satisfaction and pleasure. This is why we might replay a list of music over and over again.
Interestingly enough, the same positive experience can be had while listening to a new melody of various chord progressions. We don’t know how the next set of chords are going to play but our mind is enjoying the process.
We’re feeling uncertain because it’s unfamiliar and we’re deciding as to whether we like it or not. But after awhile we become surprised when it flows in a way that makes us happy.
We basically enjoy knowing and not knowing how the progression of music is going to play. The element of surprise and uncertainty keeps us wanting more from various artists.
Parts of the Brain
Being uncertain and surprised is only a small part of how music affects us. The source that has direct control of how we feel is inside our heads.
The brain has three areas that control how we react to music. They are the amygdala, hippocampus, and auditory cortex. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Our Emotions – The Amygdala
The amygdala is located in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, each with the shape of an almond. It has three main functions: memory, decision-making and emotions. When listening to music, each one works together to determine how we react to the song being played.
Our Memories – The Hippocampus
Remembering a lullaby or a song from a recent movie are examples of long and short term memories. The hippocampus stores everything that has happened to us over the years. If a piece of music sparks a good time in one’s life, the hippocampus will cause a mental reaction.
Our Hearing – The Auditory Cortex
The auditory cortex, which is on both sides of the brain, absorbs and processes sound. Any music, lyric or chord progression we hear will be stored in this area. As time goes on, we build up the ability to recognize a song after listening to a few notes.
There are thousands of musical genres that have a large affect on each person who listens to them. Our emotions, memories and hearing capabilities can be restructured based on the song we decide to listen to on a daily basis. Knowing that specific chord progressions brings forth happiness is why people purchase music from certain artists.